Pacific Scoop

Rare kokako settle back in the Waitakere rain forest after 50 years

Hazel Speed releases one of the kokako. Photo: PMC/Pippa Brown

DOC ranger Hazel Speed holding one of the kokako. Photo: PMC/Pippa Brown

By Pippa Brown

The haunting melody of the once endangered kokako, or blue wattled crow, has returned to the Waitakere ranges skirting Auckland.

Under the guidance of the Ark in the Park project, these rare birds were united back to the forest after an absence of 50 years.

Several hundred people gathered at dawn, under cold clear skies, at Cascade Kauri in Te Wao nui a Tirowa – Waitakere ranges – to witness the event.

Kaumatua of Te Kawerau-a-Maki, manawhenua of the Waitakere ranges Eru Thompson acknowledged the ancestral tribes, Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Rereahu and the Poakani people who journeyed from the Pureora Forest in the King country with the kokako to hand over the birds to the Auckland Regional Authority.

Thompson says the reintroduction of kokako is important to Tāmaki-makau-rau as it brings alive the aspirations and dreams of the forest in terms of the roaming of different manu, including the kokako, filtering the spirit of the forest and encompassing everything the forest is about.

Eru Thompson (mp3)

The kokako ... conservation success story. Photo: PMC/Pippa Brown

The kokako ... conservation success story. Photo: PMC/Pippa Brown

Auckland Regional Council chairman Mike Lee welcomed Auckland’s local authorities and the teams of volunteers to witness the release of the birds.

Lee called the battle to save the kokako a great conservation success story. He said back in 1989 there were only 350 pairs of these birds left which appeared to be on the same road to extinction as their cousin, the huia.

There are now 770 thriving pairs.

I was at the release.

Waiata & Pippa Brown (mp3)

Doc ranger Hazel Speed says she lives a privileged life.

Hazel Speed (mp3)

The two birds liberated today are the first of 30 proposed releases over the next two years. Although thought to be a male and female, they were caught separately. DOC ranger Hazel Speed doesn’t think they are a natural pair and as kokako are choosey about their mate and may not choose to pair up.

Part of the kokako recovery group aim is to re-establish the species once widespread throughout North Island into the habitat it represented. Catching these birds took two weeks. They are located using sounds to attract them to where nets are set.

Hazel Speed (mp3)

Auckland Regional Authority local park ranger Riki Bennett was involved in part of capturing process a week earlier.

Riki Bennett (mp3)

Susie Hepi of Ngāti Rereahu says the birds are part of the beautiful dawn chorus she wakes up to. She has a lot of aroha for the birds.

Susie Hepi (mp3)

Kaumatua Eru Thompson. Photo: PMC/Pippa Brown

Kaumatua Eru Thompson ... acknowledging the ancestors. Photo: PMC/Pippa Brown

The Ark in the Park is a partnership between Forest and Bird and the Auckland Regional Council. It is an eco-restoration project at Cascade Kauri in the northern Waitakere Ranges Regional Park in Auckland.

Predator control began in 2003 and now covers 1200 hectares. The kokako release is part of a successful programme of species and habitat restoration. The birds join previous reintroductions of popokatea (whitehead), toutouwai (North Island robin) and hihi (stitchbird).

Kokako live up to 40 years, and weigh about 230g. They protect large territories of about eight hectares by singing and chasing away invaders.

The kokako has a beautiful, clear, organ-like song. Its call can be heard for kilometres.

Breeding pairs sing together in a bell-like duet for up to an hour in the early morning. Different populations have different dialects.

They are poor fliers and prefer to hop from branch to branch.

Māori mythology says the kokako filled its wattles with water to give to Maui. He rewarded the kokako by making it legs long and slender enabling the bird to bound through the forest in search of food.

Pippa Brown is a Graduate Diploma in Journalism student at AUT University and a contributor to Pacific.Scoop.

1 comment:

  1. Anne, 18. October 2009, 12:08

    Hats off to the NGO volunteers who do most of the hands-on work despite that it’s always others who are in the spotlight come release days…